2009 Range Rover Sport HSE

The Range Rover Sport bridges the gap between the manufacturer's off-road heritage and the on-road performance its urban-dwelling owners have come to expect. While the Sport is capable of climbing a Mayan and fording a river, it's unlikely that most buyers will take their sixty-five thousand dollar trucks down the Rubicon trail.

Rather, drivers who aspire to active lifestyles are attracted to Range Rover's authentic off-road capability. And while they have no intention of getting jiggy on two wheels, these buyers appreciate the brand's exceptional capability in deep snow, on ice, and on the occasional graded dirt road.

But they also want to have fun in good weather. To answer that call, Land Rover engineers modified the popular Range Rover HSE to include two powerful V-8 engines: one naturally aspirated, and one supercharged.

Optional twenty-inch alloy wheels with high-performance Brembo brakes give the Sport a fatter footprint to stay stable in the corners, and stop on a dime. Sport and manual shift modes cater to more aggressive driving styles.

Serious Off-road Capability

Drivers who enjoy off-road driving will find plenty to love in the Range Rover Sport.

Unlike other products designed for the same purpose, it has an incredibly compliant ride in challenging conditions, and incorporates key technologies that make off-road driving as safe and effortless as possible. An information screen on the instrument panel shows the position of all four wheels, and all off-road controls are within easy reach of the driver's right hand.

An electronic parking brake engages using a small lever on the center console, and disengages when the driver steps on the gas, so he can use the brake to steady the car when one or more wheels are off the ground.

The driver can shift between low and high gear ranges while the vehicle is moving, to transition from graded dirt roads to trails.

The terrain response system uses a rotary knob on the center console to modify engine throttle, gearing, suspension, hill climbs assist and downhill descent control for five conditions: general, grass and snow, mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawl. When I said that the Range Rover could scale a Mayan ruin, I wasn't kidding.

I can also say from experience that it can ford a very deep stream and suffer no ill effects except a dirty exterior. The engine bay and interior stay completely dry.

Range Rover's antilock braking system is designed to function off-road as well as on paved surfaces. The anti-roll mitigation keeps the truck upright on precipitous grades.

Powerful On-road Performance

The test car's naturally aspirated V-8 engine has enough low end power to launch fifty-five hundred pounds of sheet metal in a hurry. The naturally aspirated model accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in just over eight seconds.

All of this comes at the expense of fuel economy: no surprise considering the car's weight and two-box design. EPA estimates are 12/18 miles-per-gallon on the city and highway respectively. I averaged about sixteen miles-per-gallon during my week-long test drive. FYI, the manufacturer recommends premium fuel.

A four-wheel independent air suspension gives the truck a much more compliant ride than its body-on-frame construction would suggest. The suspension automatically lowers the chassis at high speeds for better performance, and raises it up at low speeds to increase ground clearance: about 8.9 inches.

The ZF rack-and-pinion steering system is robust enough to survive a few rock bumps on the trail: it gives the truck a very reasonable turning radius of thirty-seven feet.

The standard park distance control system uses audible signals to warn the driver about objects in his blind spots. Since there are large areas to the side and rear of the truck below the driver's sight-line, the system makes parking much easier.

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